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From American to United: A Big Decision for Waterloo, Iowa
Located in Iowa, Waterloo Regional Airport is currently hard at work deciding the future of the airport’s only airline. For six years, the airport has seen service from American Airlines, operating through its regional brand. The airport is proposing to switch its sole carrier from American Airlines to United Airlines in 2018.
After an hour-long special meeting on Friday, the board voted 4-1 to recommend the change to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office (DOT) of Aviation Analysis according to The Courier, the Waterloo and Cedar Falls newspaper.
Over the years, competition from nearby airports including Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids has caused the airport to lose many of the airlines and flights that it previously offered. Currently, the airport’s operations are subsidized by the DOT through the Essential Air Services program.
The Essential Air Service program is a government program which essentially guarantees small communities to receive air service. Normally, airlines would not be profitable on routes which are part of the Essential Air Services program, so the DOT subsidizes airlines on these routes to ensure the community continues to receive air service to a nearby hub.
When the Essential Air Service program grants funds for a flight to be operated, the money is given to either the municipality or airport authority so that the airport is able to recruit the best service possible.
Currently, Waterloo Regional Airport is receiving over $1.8 million each year to help fund American Eagles’ 13 times weekly flights to Chicago O’Hare. However, the agreement for air service with Waterloo is set to end on April 30, 2018, which is why the airport is now looking at its options for the future.
The city believes it has potential to add even more flights to its airport, but it seems that American Airlines is not interested in continuing to expand its presence in Waterloo.
Skywest Airlines, the airline which would operate the route for United Airlines, sent two proposals to Waterloo Airport for review. In the first one, the airline says that it will operate 13 round-trip flights per week to Chicago O’Hare just like American Airlines.
The second option proposes seven round-trip flights to Chicago and six round-trip flights to Denver each week. All flights would be operated on the Bombardier CRJ-200 aircraft, which American also currently uses on its flights to Waterloo.
Officials in Waterloo are leaning towards United’s first proposal to offer the exact service that American is flying right now. This is due to the second option costing over $700,000 more. While the flights would be the same for now, just with a different carrier, United Airlines has said that they would consider adding more flights to the city in the future.
Hope for more air service has the city optimistic and now it is up to the Department of Transportation to approve the change in air service to Waterloo, Iowa.
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